BT-Arliss

Llyla Allen, Author Ballantine Books $4.95 (201p) ISBN 978-0-345-35431-0
This quietly effective first novel captures the complex emotions of a girl as she crosses into womanhood. Arliss Garrison, the gangly, insecure narrator, a would-be writer, has a younger sister Roselle who matures earlier, can play the piano better and has a talent for making everything Arliss says ``sound dumb.'' Arliss is a wonderful mix of airy ambitions and childish jealousies, with an endless capacity for embarrassment over her own failings. Her rite of passage is not a sexual experience, but a dim and fleeting recognition of the love-hate ties that bind us to those we love. Because the novel is set in 1941-42, the understated inclusion of a bitter labor dispute and the entry of the U.S. into World War II suggest an even greater awareness awaiting Arliss, that of an adult world contaminated by lust, greed, violence and death. The novel progresses slowly, gaining power by the accretion of detail rather than by sweep of incident. Although the language lapses now and then into the self-consciously literary, Allen by and large succeeds in creating a credible, humorous and affecting voice for her 14-year-old Everywoman protagonist. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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